Well, it’s sometimes seemed to have more endings than Return of the King. But, tonight, it looks like the primary season is finally, really, truly at an end, with Sen. Barack Obama of Illinois our duly chosen Democratic nominee. In the days and weeks ahead, it’ll behoove all of us, however hard, to let the primary bygones be bygones and to help reunite the party against our real foe, John McCain and the GOP. But, before we let the healing begin, I do have one more word to say about the Clintons, who above all else this campaign season has proven the truth of the old adage: “Choose your enemies wisely, for you will become them.“
Now, I’m not going to recite the full litany of grievances against the Clintons’ behavior of late one more time. I’d say that ground is already pretty well-covered in the election archives. But I will say this: It has become increasingly fashionable in the press and elsewhere to esteem Sen. Clinton — regardless of her other political transgressions — as gutsy, tenacious, a fighter. Say what you will about her methods, this line of thinking goes, she goes there. She does what needs to be done. In fact, argues otherwise discerning political observers such as friend and colleague David Greenberg, she is exactly the kind of fighter the Left has said they’ve been looking for. (Of course, she and her husband have been AWOL when it counted over the past seven years, but that’s neither here nor there in this view.)
Well, simply put, this is all hooey. Sen. Clinton’s behavior over the past six months and change has been exactly the wrong lesson for Democrats to draw from the politics of the last decade. I’ve said it here several times before, but, in a nutshell, here’s why:
You don’t wear the ring. You destroy the ring.
Or, in other words, the key to beating the Republicans is not by acting Republican. It’s by rising above their tendentious garbage and working to restore reason and sanity to our politics. At the very least, a Democratic nominee for president shouldn’t validate the base tactics of the GOP by wallowing in their wretchedness. For what shall it profit a woman, if she shall gain the whole world, and lose her own soul?
Nevertheless, seemingly blinded by ambition, Sen. Clinton very quickly chose the wrong path. (In the place of a Dumb Lord, we would have a Queen…) She embraced the Rove playbook and dabbled in Al Qaeda hysteria. She validated John McCain and threatened to obliterate Iran. She called her opponent elitist and derided the “elite opinion” of the reality-based community. She played nice with Limbaugh, Scaife, and FOX. She flirted dangerously with the race card and lauded hard-working whites. She, for all intent and purposes, became the Republican candidate in the Democratic primary. She, and her husband, became part of the problem rather than part of the solution.
To repeat something I said after Wisconsin in February, the night when Sen. Obama’s primary victory basically became mathematically inexorable: “If you’ll forgive the lapse into LotR metaphors, the treason of Saruman, once the noblest and wisest of our order, is almost subdued. The Battle for Middle-Earth is only beginning.” So, as we move forward after tonight, I’ll try as much as anyone to tone down the internecine fighting around here, and start focusing fire on our true opponents over on the Right. (That is provided, of course, that Sen. Clinton chooses to diminish, go into the West, and remain a Democrat.) But let’s also draw the appropriate lesson from the Clinton candidacy of 2008. The Clinton era is over, and this general election is now a chance for we as Dems “to show our quality.” We are not Dubya-Rove Republicans, and adopting their scorched-earth idiocies in a “tenacious” attempt to get elected is most assuredly the road to political, civic, and spiritual ruin.
“My husband did not wrap up the nomination in 1992 until he won the California primary somewhere in the middle of June, right? We all remember Bobby Kennedy was assassinated in June in California. I don’t understand it.” A Freudian slip, or just the Mother of all Gaffes? Classy to the end, Sen. Clinton, perhaps inadvertently, blurts out her Vulture Strategy. Now, that should go over like gangbusters. Ugh, go away already.
Update: “Representative James E. Clyburn of South Carolina, reacting to Mrs. Clinton’s comment through a spokeswoman, said only, ‘This is beyond the pale.’“
Update 2: In a special comment tonight, MSNBC’s Keith Olbermann blew a gasket over Clinton’s remarks, and offered a concise and damning litany of the ridiculousness Sen. Clinton has subjected us to over these past few months. To be honest, I think Olbermann is pretty far over the top here. That being said, the riff beginning at 7:13 is very worthwhile.
‘Twas in another lifetime, one of toil and blood, when blackness was a virtue and the road was full of mud.” Well, actually, it was only six weeks ago, just after Mississippi. (It only seems like a lifetime.) Still, I posted then, following Al Giordano at Rural Votes, to beware Pennsylvania tunnel vision, as it’s a state tailor-made for Clinton’s demographic strengths. Six long, miserable weeks later, after Jeremiah Wright and The Speech and Tuzla snipers and the Bitter pill, we’ve finally made it to PA Day, and what I wrote then still holds true. Given the polls and the probable Limbaugh shenanigans in Pennsyltucky, Clinton will almost assuredly win the Keystone State by double digits tonight, and yet still won’t amass enough delegates to make a bit of difference in the final decision. And, because the media still won’t call the race (and, indeed, resent even the slightest implication that they’re lazy and f**king pathetic at their line of work), we will grimly slog on to May 6th, watching enviously as McCain and the GOP dance their happy jig of Dem self-immolation. (Don’t get me wrong: I still think Obama will trounce McCain thoroughly in November. But it’s going to be much harder than it ever needed to be.)
Was that magical night in Iowa really less than four months ago? It seems since then that we Obama-leaning political junkies are being punished by the Clinton campaign for the sin of putting too much faith in the process, and have been consigned to a neverending Purgatory of endless lowballs and trifling media idiocies. In a different world, I might have been flabbergasted by Clinton shoehorning Pearl Harbor and Bin Laden into a political ad against a fellow Democrat. But, at this late date, did anyone really expect anything less? Give it a few more weeks and the Clinton campaign will likely be regaling us with D.W. Griffith and guys in blackface. And it will still be over. Update: By way of Dangerous Meta, Sen. Clinton also attempted to recertify her cajones this morning by threatening to “obliterate” Iran. Dubya much, Senator?
At any rate, if you are of the Pennsylvanian persuasion, please consider voting for Barack Obama today. Let’s get focused on our real opponent, already.
“Clinton is viewed as ‘honest and trustworthy’ by just 39 percent of Americans, according to a new Washington Post-ABC News poll, compared with 52 percent in May 2006. Nearly six in 10 said in the new poll that she is not honest and trustworthy.” Who’s bitter now? A new poll finds that a solid majority of voters now believes Sen. Clinton is dishonest. “And now, compared with Obama, Clinton has a deep trust deficit among Democrats, trailing him by 23 points as the more honest, an area on which she once led both Obama and John Edwards.” In other words, all the shenanigans of the past few months seem to have made her unelectable. Oops.
“You are campaigning as if Barack Obama were the Democrat and you were the Republican…Voluntarily or inadvertently, you are still awash in this filth.” One part Edward Murrow, one part Howard Beale, MSNBC’s Keith Olbermann speaks his mind on the Clinton campaign, Geraldine Ferraro, and the kitchen sink.
And, while I’m embedding video, these merry pranksters made a similar point today, albeit with more snark and less dudgeon. Vinegar or honey, they’re all speaking the truth.
“‘I think it’s imperative that each of us be able to demonstrate we can cross the commander-in-chief threshold. I believe that I’ve done that. Certainly, Sen. McCain has done that and you’ll have to ask Sen. Obama with respect to his candidacy.’…Calling McCain, the presumptive GOP nominee a good friend and a ‘distinguished man with a great history of service to our country,’ Clinton said, ‘Both of us will be on that stage having crossed that threshold.’” Say what? Still happily in denial about her recent loss of the Democratic nomination, Hillary Clinton spouts more GOP talking points on national security in an attempt to wound Obama after the fact. (In case you missed it, she did the same sort of thing the other day.) Now, I remain unclear as to what national security qualifications McCain and especially Clinton assume they enjoy. (Lest we forget, Clinton didn’t even have a national security clearance during her tenure as First Lady.) That being said, this sordid wallowing in (and thus legitimizing of) right-wing agitprop is exactly why the party can’t afford to let Hillary Clinton sustain the delusion she will be our nominee. It is time for her to go.
“The control of the sign-in sheets and the announcement of the delegates allotted to each candidate are the critical functions of the Chair and Secretary. This is why it is so important that Hillary supporters hold these positions.” In their training materials for Texas caucus participants, the Clinton campaign requests that supporters game the system. Classy, as always. And, since Camp Clinton can’t seem to stop acting like Republicans at the moment, why not some of the real thing? Rush Limbaugh encourages his listeners to vote Clinton in Texas and Ohio (as do other GOPers), to keep the Dem party divided against itself for as long as possible.
Oof. I really hope this ends on Tuesday night. Mathematically, that would seem a certainty, given the huge margins Clinton needs in both Texas and Ohio to stay viable. Still, an unmistakable knockout blow, for those non-number-crunching folk among us, would be nice.
So, since Thursday night’s seemingly valedictory moment, when it seemed Sen. Clinton might withdraw from the presidential contest with dignity intact, we’ve witnessed the ridiculous “shame on you” farce, her grotesquely unbecoming (and unpresidential) spate of unhinged sarcasm, further railing against Obama’s foreign policy (in part by comparing him to Dubya), some really desperate whining about the press coverage, and — arguably a new low — her staff’s apparent attempt to get the “closet Muslim” smear machine up and running again with the already-infamous Somali gear pic. (Here’s a quick summary of recent events.) Update: One of the more egregious spins of the day: Combining the biased-press and Somali-photo tacks, a Clinton aide is quoted as saying, ““Wouldn’t we be seeing this on the cover of every magazine if it were [Clinton]?” Uh, no, because there’s obviously no whispering campaign arguing that Sen. Clinton is secretly Muslim. Really, what kind of idiots do you take us for?
It can only make you wonder what the next eight days will bring, and how much lower the Clinton campaign can possibly sink. I understand that they’re desperate now (See also Clinton supporter Geraldine Ferraro all but begging supers to back HRC), but they’ve really gone beyond the pale. At this point, I’m less outraged than I am just disgusted by Sen. Clinton, Mark Penn, and co. The self-immolation of the Clinton legacy is almost complete, and any goodwill they might’ve once enjoyed in progressive circles is well past exhausted. Let’s just hope the trail of slime they leave on their path to the exit doesn’t prove fertile ground for the Republicans in the general.
Update: Sen. Obama personally responds to the Somali pic flap: “Everybody knows that whether it’s me or Senator Clinton, or Bill Clinton, that when you travel to other countries they ask you to try on traditional garb that you have been given as a gift. The notion that the Clinton campaign would be trying to circulate this as a negative on the same day that Senator Clinton was giving a speech about how we repair our relationships around the world is sad. We are going to try to stay focused on what will make a difference in our foreign policy, including bringing the war in Iraq to an honorable end.” He then proceeded to twist the knife: “The notion that they would try to use this to imply in some way that I’m foreign, I think is, you know, unfortunate…These are the kinds of political tricks and silliness you start seeing at the end of campaigns.”
Update 2: The NYT surveys “what one Clinton aide called a ‘kitchen sink’ fusillade against Mr. Obama,” while the WP’s Dana Milbank reports on the efforts of the increasingly combative and bizarre Clinton spin room: “They are in the last throes, if you will…there was no mistaking a certain flailing, a lashing-out, as two Clinton advisers sat down for a bacon-and-eggs session yesterday at the St. Regis Hotel…[They offered] a fascinating tour of an alternate universe.”
“Enough with the speeches and the big rallies, and then using tactics right out of Karl Rove’s playbook. This is wrong, and every Democrat should be outraged…So shame on you, Barack Obama. It is time you ran a campaign consistent with your messages in public. That’s what I expect from you. Meet me in Ohio. Let’s have a debate about your tactics.” What was that about feeling “absolutely honored” the other night? No doubt in an attempt to stem all the final days talk, Sen. Clinton goes ballistic on Barack Obama this afternoon, claiming he’s the one that has used Rovian tactics this primary cycle. (Watch the video for the full “Dean Scream” effect. I wonder what Ohio Gov. Ted Strickland, fidgeting behind her, was thinking.) Sen. Obama responds here and here, and the Obama campaign’s official rebuttal is here.
Ok, I’m going to try to put this as delicately as I can: Sen. Clinton, shame the fuck on you. After all the low-down, reprehensible, and thoroughly scummy maneuvers we’ve seen from your campaign this primary cycle, no doubt courtesy of your $10 million bust Mark Penn, how dare you get before the public and act the aggrieved party here? I’ve compiled this list before, but let’s go over it again. In the past three months, Sen. Clinton and/or her campaign has:
And I’m sure I’ve missed a few things. So who’s “using tactics right out of Karl Rove’s playbook” again? Don’t you worry, Sen. Clinton, “every Democrat should be outraged, and they are: That’s arguably one of the main reasons you’ve lost eleven contests in a row. It seemed the Clinton campaign had seen the situation for what it was, and was content to fade away, with grace and dignity intact. Had they done so, I might’ve let bygones be bygones. But, once they start indulging in this sort of Hail Mary raging against the dying of the light, which will no doubt poison the well for an easy reconciliation once Clinton has conceded, all bets are off. Update: This well-made video helps put today’s rant in perspective, and with Pink Floyd to boot.
Update 2: She’s getting worse.
Update 3: A few hours before the final Ohio debate, Sen Clinton concedes she “got a little hot over the weekend in Cincinnati.” Presumably, this means that the campaign’s internal polling suggests it backfired massively.
“The hardball tactics of Rove have defined American political life for a long time. The Clintons have now shown they have learnt from the master. The question for the Democrats is whether they want a candidate who can play the Rove game as cynically and as brutally as the Republicans. Or whether they want a new start and a new politics. That’s what is at stake now in the Democratic race. And one side has shown its true colours.” Reviewing the Democratic primary campaign so far, Andrew Sullivan also sees the Clintons using the Karl Rove playbook. “Ever since the Clintons’ near-death experience in the Iowa vote, their campaign has been playing a very Rovian game. The use of the politics of fear is just the start. In fact classic Rovian tactics are now at the heart of the Clinton campaign.”
Saying he was “concerned about the tenor of the race in these past few days,” Senator Barack Obama moves to quell some of the arguing over identity politics this past week.
Concerning Sen. Clinton’s LBJ history lesson: “‘I don’t think it was in any way a racial comment,’ Obama told ABC News. ‘That’s something that has played out in the press. That’s not my view.’ But, he said, the comment was revealing about her political character. ‘I do think it was indicative of the perspective that she brings, which is that what happens in Washington is more important than what happens outside of Washington,’ he said. He said he believes the quote betrays a belief on her part, ‘that the intricacies of the legislative process were somehow more significant than when ordinary people rise up and march and go to jail and fight for justice.’ He called that a ‘fundamental difference’ between them.“
Concerning Bill Clinton’s fairy tale: “[A]gain, Obama looked past the racial controversy. Instead, Obama directed his response to the dispute over whether opposition to the Iraq War was consistent. (Clinton has since reiterated that is what he meant when he invoked the ‘fairy tale’ line.) ‘Both he and Sen. Clinton have been spending a lot of time over the past month trying to run down my record,’ Obama said. ‘What particularly distresses me is this notion that I wasn’t against the war from the start. This is coming from a former president who suggests that he was and nobody can find any record of it,’ he said.“
A great, classy response. The Clinton strategy only really works if you play along. As my old employer, James Carville, was wont to put it, “Don’t waste your time wrestling with a pig. You just dirty, and the pig loves it.” (And, just to avoid confusion and just as McCain with Romney, I’m not calling the Clintons porcine, even if they have engaged in some swinish political tactics of late. It’s a figure of speech.)
Update: Senator Obama continues in the same vein at a press conference this evening. Speaking of a possible Bradley effect in New Hampshire, Senator Obama said: “I don’t think that’s what was going on…as I understand it, basically there was a big shift in undecided’s going towards Sen Clinton, particularly among women in the last minute. And keep in mind there was a big gap, a gender gap that cut both ways — I won among men and she won among women — there were more men than women who voted. If it had been a racial issue, there’s no reason why that would have been something that was unique to women as opposed to men, so I don’t’ think that is the case.”
Update 2: Speaking yet again of Clinton’s “fairy tale” rant, it seems another — substantive — deception has emerged from Clinton’s remarks (and Hillary’s statement on MtP.) Did you notice how they both keep mentioning anti-war opponent Chuck Hagel? “[T]he talking point appears to misconstrue the facts.”
“We seem to be at the point where there are now two credible possibilities. One is that the Clinton campaign is intentionally pursuing a strategy of using surrogates to hit Obama with racially-charged language or with charges that while not directly tied to race nonetheless play to stereotypes about black men. The other possibility is that the Clinton campaign is extraordinarily unlucky and continually finds its surrogates stumbling on to racially-charged or denigrating language when discussing Obama.” TPM‘s Josh Marshall ponders the last week in politics, while going on to defend Clinton’s “fairy tale” remark as untinged by race. (I would agree — I found it dismaying for other reasons, which I’ve explained twice, and which The Nation‘s David Corn also finds reprehensible — the Rovian swift-boating of Senator Obama’s stance on the Iraq war.)
Another commenter at TPM aptly characterized what the Clintons have been doing here (the “rope-a-dope” strategy I outlined in the comments the other day.): “I think that the Clintons’ anti-Obama strategy is more subtle than commentators are realizing. It is in the nature of a ‘provokatsiia’, as the Russians say…Such comments are a provocation, waving a red cloak in front of the Obama people. When they respond angrily with charges of racism, suddenly they look like Jesse Jackson redux…just the kind of angry, militant black folks who scare white people…The whole point was to get the Obama people to respond angrily, which they did. Clintons win.” And we all get dirty.
Update: “Is it possible that accusing Obama and his campaign of playing the race card might create doubt in the minds of the moderate, independent white voters who now seem so enamored of the young, black senator? Might that be the idea?” The Post‘s Eugene Robinson sees a similar strategy at work.
Update 2: As does Margaret Carlson: “While it isn’t clear from whose sleeve the card was pulled, it is likely it wasn’t from the person with the most to lose. If Hillary Clinton’s campaign had taken only one shot at Obama, it might have been blown off as a mistake. But four shots constitutes a pattern.”
Update 3: As does the New York Times: “By the time the campaigns got to New Hampshire, the Clinton team was panicking…It was clearly her side that first stoked the race and gender issue.“
“‘It is a direct lie and distortion of the facts of his “choice” record and I believe it did a lot of damage,’ said Moore. ‘The women are all very prominent Democrats, many of them in leadership, and it is sickening.‘” When you engage in lowball tactics, there’s going to be some serious wreckage. The WP’s Alec MacGillis describes the emerging Democratic divide in New Hampshire between furious Obama voters and the cadre of pro-Clinton officials who signed off on the patently false abortion mailer. “Obama supporter Bill Siroty, a former Democratic chair for the town of Amherst, said the ill will is running so high that it could keep Democrats in the state who supported Obama from rallying behind Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton, should she win the nomination. In 2000, bad feelings that lingered among some Bill Bradley supporters about tactics used by Al Gore in the primary – including misleading charges about Bradley’s health care plan – were seen as one reason why Gore lost the state to George W. Bush in November…’People are very upset about it,’ said Siroty. ‘I’ve heard one or two threaten they’re not going to vote for Clinton at all. Tensions are very high, and it could cause a rift.’“
The article is also worth reading for its delineation of a successful (and shady) attempt by the Clinton campaign to disrupt Obama’s Get out the Vote operation. “Clinton volunteers and local lawyers acting on behalf of the campaign demanded in Nashua, Concord and at least one other town that poll moderators ban the Obama volunteers from the polls, saying that their presence violated a state law stating that only the state party chairmen can delegate people to monitor the polls…The Obama campaign countered that that law applied only to monitors who are at the polls to challenge potentially invalid voters, a practice that is usually limited to general elections and which their volunteers were not engaged in. The attorney general and Nashua city clerk confirmed this when they were called about the dispute, saying that the Obama volunteers were allowed as members of the public to observe the polls, as long as they didn’t get in the way…The disputes, which dragged on for hours and grew quite heated, generally scrambled the Obama efforts to keep track of who was and wasn’t voting…The effect of it was that it basically disrupted our get out the vote operation,’ said Edwards. ‘My effectiveness that day [in checking off names] was less than 50 percent as a result of the people who kept coming in’ to protest the observers.“
The Clinton camp response to these incidents? Suck it up. “Bette Lasky, the assistant House majority leader and a top Clinton supporter who was involved in both the e-mail and poll interventions, said she was sorry to hear about the bad feelings but hoped Obama supporters would get over it. ‘It’s politics, and it happens,’ she said.” In other words, we can keep doing what we want because Dems will be forced to return to the fold. Didn’t these people learn anything from 2000?
Update: “[F]or Clinton to do this to the choice community is so appalling. I can’t tell you how it distresses me…how devastating this and how horrified I am that the Clinton campaign would do this. I fear it will happen elsewhere and it’s just appalling.” The abortion mailer controversy simmers in New Hampshire.
When in doubt, disenfranchise. You may have heard Senator Clinton say this the other day about caucuses: “‘You have a limited period of time on one day to have your voices heard,’ Clinton (D-N.Y.) said. ‘That is troubling to me. You know, in a situation of a caucus, people who work during that time — they’re disenfranchised.” (She said something similar after losing Iowa.) Well, it turns out now her team is trying to speed along the disenfranchising: A Clinton-supporting teachers’ union is now attempting to prevent caucusing on the Las Vegas strip, so as to undercut the ability of culinary workers (whose union backed Obama) to caucus on Jan. 19. “The complaint, with the state teachers union and some party activists as plaintiffs, came as Obama accepted the endorsement of the Culinary Union.” As — not before. When the Culinary Union endorsement was up for grabs, nary a peep was heard from the Clinton folk. (By way of The Daily Dish.)
Update: The WP has more: “The state party quickly dismissed the lawsuit. Going back to last spring, every presidential campaign was involved in setting up the unusual casino caucus sites while state party officials and the Democratic National Committee ironed out the details. ‘This is a fair, legal and proper way to choose delegates under established law and legal precedent that has been reviewed by attorneys….The time for comment or complaint has passed,’ the party said in a statement.” [My emphasis.]
False Hopes and Fairy tale redux: “If you have a social need, you’re with Hillary. If you want Obama to be your imaginary hip black friend and you’re young and you have no social needs, then he’s cool.” And the Clinton camp sinks even lower. A Clinton adviser denigrates Barack Obama as little more than a “Bagger Vance“-ish figment of devil-may-care young people’s imagination to The Guardian‘s Daniel Freedland, insulting Sen. Obama and the political activism of young voters in the process. What was Margaret Carlson’s line about Al Gore in 2000? “[W]hen Gore descends to the politics he disdains, he can’t find the level beneath which he will not sink.” Looks like it applies here as well.
Well, “Clinton adviser,” You may say I’m a dreamer, but I’m not the only one. And if you “imagine” all Obama voters are just going to flock back to Sen. Clinton’s candidacy in droves — should she even win the nomination, which is a very open question — if this type of garbage keeps up, it might be time for a reality check.
Update: Senator Clinton is now referring to Obama as a “part-time state senator.” Uh, what the hell? From the NYT, June 2007: “[As State Senator,] Mr. Obama helped deliver what is said to have been the first significant campaign finance reform law in Illinois in 25 years. He brought law enforcement groups around to back legislation requiring that homicide interrogations be taped and helped bring about passage of the state’s first racial-profiling law. He was a chief sponsor of a law enhancing tax credits for the working poor, played a central role in negotiations over welfare reform and successfully pushed for increasing child care subsidies.“
Wow, I must say, that’s quite a lot for an “imaginary hip black friend” and “part-time state senator” to get done (and considerably more than Clinton — my Senator from New York — has to show for her own legislative career.) So where is she getting “part-time” from? Or has she just decided to glom on to Karl Rove’s recent “lazy” motif? (And speaking of that anti-Obama Rove piece, consider the source. Why would Rove be backing Clinton’s play these days anyway? Perhaps it’s because she’s good for thousands of GOP votes coming out of the woodwork in the general election, and everyone knows it.) Update: Now Newt’s doing it, too.
My disgust deepens.
You heard it here first: Barack Obama’s campaign has abandoned its message of hope, and, with Larry David, is now waging the politics of fear: “David is…quoted threatening the Dartmouth students who are undecided between Obama and Edwards. ‘Okay, alright,’ he said. ‘If you don’t vote for Obama, I’m never doing the show again.’” Sigh, it’s a sad day…no wonder Cheryl left him. Still, don’t say you weren’t warned.
Which reminds me, in case you missed Senator Clinton’s Hail-Mary Giuliani-ism of Monday, Ted of The Late Adopter posted it in an earlier comment thread. Said the Senator, speaking of Gordon Brown: “I don’t think it was by accident that Al Qaeda decided to test the new prime minister. They watch our elections as closely as we do, maybe more closely than some of our fellow citizens do…Let’s not forget you’re hiring a president not just to do what a candidate says during the election, you want a president to be there when the chips are down.” Hard to call that a message of change. In fact, take out that weird stab at “our fellow citizens” who haven’t swarmed to Clinton’s candidacy, and it sounds like all the usual terror terror terror garbage we’ve been hearing from the GOP for years.
Well, suffice to say, the past 24 hours have not been the Clintons’ finest hour. At this point, you’ve probably seen Hillary’s lip-quivering moment yesterday. I was going just to leave it well enough alone — partly because things seem to be breaking Obama’s way at the moment, so why pile on, and partly because I’d prefer to write the post-mortems post-mortem (I mean, let’s not count our chickens in NH just yet, although turnout looks historic.) But then I witnessed the wholly depressing sight of an exhausted Bill Clinton completely going off the rails this morning. If you missed it, he ranted about the press coverage and called Obama’s surge “the biggest fairy tale I’ve ever seen.” I found this exasperating, and so, some quick thoughts.
Yesterday, according to Hillary Clinton, Barack Obama was too liberal. Today, he’s not liberal enough. Flailing about desperately for something that will stick on the Illinois Senator, the Clinton camp contrives a patently false abortion mailer questioning Obama’s pro-choice commitment. The mailer says “Clinton has a record of fighting ‘far-right Republicans’ to defend abortion rights, while Obama has been ‘unwilling to take a stand on choice.’” And the facts? “During his eight years in the legislature, Obama cast a number of votes on abortion and received a 100 percent rating from the Illinois Planned Parenthood Council for his support of abortion rights, family planning services and health insurance coverage for female contraceptives. He voted against requiring medical care for aborted fetuses who survive, a vote that especially riled abortion opponents.“
The peg Clinton is trying to hang her hat on is seven times in the State Legislature when Obama voted “present” rather than “yes” on a given abortion-related bill. As was reported over the summer (i.e, well before this mailer was composed), Obama “did so with the explicit support of the president and CEO of Illinois Planned Parenthood Council. ‘We at Planned Parenthood view those as leadership votes,’ Pam Sutherland, the president and CEO of the Illinois Planned Parenthood Council, told ABC News. ‘We worked with him specifically on his strategy.’“
So, in other words, like yesterday’s mandatory minimums fiasco, this is another weaselly, obviously false desperation ploy by Clinton’s team. (And one, like the soft-on-drug-related-crimes gambit, seemingly aimed at preemptively marring Senator Obama’s general election viability.) Sorry, try again.
“When I decided to run for president, I accepted that my opponents would dig through my record looking for something to attack. I didn’t realize they’d go all the way back to kindergarten.” In keeping with their previously announced New Negativity, the Clinton campaign actually digs up dirt on Obama’s kindergarten ambitions. (Two days after the press release in question, now that it’s not playing so hot in the media, pollster Mark Penn claims it was a joke.) Desperate much? Well, before anybody throws a tantrum, two new polls put Clinton still in the lead in Iowa, by 5% and 7% respectively. Maybe that’ll help put an end to this type of sorry stunt by Team Hillary in the future. (By the way, I have no plans to ever run for anything, but just in case it comes up someday (and a la Edwards): When I was in kindergarten I wanted to be Han Solo.)
The Dem race took another ugly turn over the weekend as a column by conservative DoL Bob Novak dropped that the Clinton campaign is harboring “scandalous information” about Obama but has chosen not to use it, thus making “Obama look vulnerable and Clinton look prudent.” Obama then dared the Clinton camp to release whatever info they were insinuating about on deep background, at which point Team Clinton disavowed all knowledge of the leak, choosing instead to go snide about the matter. Said Clinton spokesman Howard Wolfson: “A Republican-leaning journalist runs a blind item designed to set Democrats against one another. Experienced Democrats see this for what it is. Others get distracted and thrown off their games.” I must say, the politics of personal destruction have gotten pretty bad when you can just let the suggestion of a scandal do the dirty work for you. Who needs a Swift Boat when you can just let people’s imaginations run wild? Well, speaking as an “experienced Democrat” — i.e. several years spent in the Beltway trenches — I seriously doubt Novak just made this all up. I wouldn’t trust Novak as far as I could throw him, but somebody out there, either by mistake or by design, planted this seed in his head. Update 12/13/07: Novak reveals more.
Update: Along with the phantom scandal comes a new poll showing progress for Obama in Iowa: Obama 30%, Clinton 26%, Edwards 22%. Strangely enough, unlike last week’s tied poll, the usual gender and generational groupings didn’t show up here. “Obama is running even with Clinton among women in Iowa, drawing 32 percent to her 31 percent…And despite widespread impressions that Obama is banking on unreliable first-time voters, Clinton depends on them heavily as well: About half of her supporters say they have never attended a caucus before, compared with 43 percent of first-timers for Obama and 24 percent for Edwards.”